Marketing Help?

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Is anyone interested–or know of someone who’d be interested–in taking over some of the marketing aspects of my self-published books? I simply have not been able to find the time to figure out which advertising is right for me, which email lists I should strive to get on, the best promotions to run, and so forth. I can’t afford a big-time marketing firm, needless to say, but would love to find someone familiar with the best way to go about this, and looking to augment their income with a (very) small account. Anyone have any ideas? I’m open for suggestions, recommendations, and warnings. 🙂 Thanks!

Building a Local Readership

 

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DeBary Hall Historic Site
Enterprise, FL

I’ve mentioned this subject briefly in an earlier post, but I wanted to get back to it again, with an update on what’s happening in my world, and to see if any of you are doing the same kinds of things.

First, let me say that I have an advantage over some, in that my second novel, Swamp Ghosts, is set in a fictional town about 30 miles north of where I live. I plopped Riverbend, Florida down along the St. Johns River, because I knew I wanted to write a book set in the habitat I love most in this state. And surprise, that’s not the beach, nor any of the glittery enclaves along our seashores. As a Florida native (yeah, there’s me, and some guy up in the panhandle), I far prefer the mysterious rivers and lakes of central Florida, and the wildlife that lives there. So, I had my setting in mind before I had my story line worked out. I had an idea I wanted a serial killer to be terrorizing Riverbend, but it wasn’t until I was out with the St. Johns River Eco Tour folks that I  realized the good Captain Jeanne Belle had the most perfect job in the world, and it would make a great job for the heroine of my book. Her husband & first mate, Doug Little, is a very talented wildlife photographer, too. So, voila. Maggie Devlin and Gunnar Wolfe were born, and my novel was up and running. Or paddling. In a canoe, of course.

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The Naiad
My Inspiration for Maggie Devlin’s Boat, The Undine

I’m giving you this back story, because this is how the next part of my adventure began. Jeanne & Doug loved my book, and Doug was pretty sure he was Gunnar Wolfe’s alter ego, and they began to tell folks on their tours about the book they had inspired. One thing led to another, and before you know it, they were selling copies of the book at the end of each tour, and talking to people in the area who had venues where I might be able to do a Meet the Author type of thing. It started with a small group at a local nature center, and then I was at DeBary Hall historic site, doing a PowerPoint presentation on writing a novel using the St. Johns River basin and wildlife as a backdrop. That went so well, I not only sold a lot of books, I discussed future presentations we’d like to do there, including one on my experiences with self-publishing both eBooks and print versions of all three of my novels. There are more in the works, too, plus I believe they plan to carry my books in their gift shop.

Then there’s the spill-over. Because I told the audience all about St. Johns River Eco Tours, one attendee immediately booked two tours on the Naiad, for her group of 40+ folks, and I’ve been invited to go along as a guest on each, and do a short Q & A session, mid-tour. I’ll do a signing afterward, for anyone who wants to buy a copy of Swamp Ghosts. I’m not telling you guys this just to brag, even though it feels GREAT to be having this much fun with my book. I’m sharing because it’s such a super way to build a local readership. There’s a good chance I’ll be doing more of these Meet the Author things at other venues in the central Florida area, too.

As far as sales go, it’s a one book at a time thing, rather than a mass market event, but each one of those sales is a chance to make a personal connection with a reader. And each reader who enjoys meeting you and reading your book is a potential member of your tribe, ready to check out everything you write. And better yet, each one has friends and family they can tell about your book. Word of mouth is still the number one way to sell books, after all.

Bottom line, I may have stumbled into this opportunity accidentally, but it can work for you, too. If you’re lucky enough to have written a book set in your area, you have a built-in sales tool with local businesses, book clubs, book fairs, and libraries. If your setting isn’t local, look for a hook of another kind. If you write murder mysteries, maybe you can offer to do a presentation on famous murders in history, or new forensic techniques (in layman’s language). Be creative. Find something you can build a presentation around, and start looking for places that offer talks to the public. Consider it advertising that doesn’t cost anything, and might actually make you a few dollars. And more importantly, it’s a great way to build name recognition, and add members to youryour tribe.

And best of all: Meeting readers face to face is FUN!

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My Favorite Swamp Ghost of All
The Dancing Albino Alligator

The power of Bookbub

Amazon bestsellers

Of all the book-advertising sites, Bookbub is king. But with great power comes…a pretty hefty pricetag and seriously restrictive submission requirements.

I applied three times before I was finally accepted, and I had to downgrade my wish list from a 99-cent listing to a free listing. I was a little concerned, actually, that I might have to explain to my  husband why I’d spent $175 giving away free books…but then Bookbub’s email went out yesterday afternoon and soothed my ragged nerves.

By 8 pm, I’d already broken even due to increased sales of the other novel and short story in the series, and I woke up this morning to find that my Bookbub-pushed title was number two free on all of Amazon! Book two in the series (aided by a countdown deal mentioned in the description of book one) had soared to #402 paid, and I had an author rank for the first time ever!

Author rank

The moral of the story? If you’ve been considering applying for Bookbub, but have been afraid of the big bucks involved…do it. Be sure to read their requirements carefully, though, and consider applying when your book will be free since free slots are easier to land than sale slots. The more books you have in the series, the more of a return you’ll see on your investment, and remember that Bookbub ads can now be seen in Canada and the UK as well as the U.S.

The only downside I’ve found with Bookbub so far is the constant urge to refresh my sales data. Makes it hard to write book three….

Preparing for the post-Christmas rush

Bloodling WolfWith my newest release at the copy editor, I’ve been spending a few days cleaning up my backlist in preparation for the post-Christmas kindle craze. Here’s what I’m doing:

Updating keywords. Supercharge your Kindle Sales is the best book I’ve found so far on this topic.

Cleaning up blurbs. Gotta Read It! is really helping me get a handle on writing blurbs that sell books.

Checking on back matter. I’m busy adding buy links to all of the titles I mention in the back of my books and am checking to make sure my email-list call-to-action is also clear and easy to follow.

Changing out covers. All of my covers were originally homemade, so I’m spending a bit getting replacement covers for a few titles that needed it the most. For example, take a look at my new cover for Bloodling Wolf to the right.

Planning a sale. I’m running a free period for a couple of my books the week before Christmas, hoping they’ll get in the public eye and be higher in the rankings once they go back to the paid store. I’m also thinking of a countdown deal right after Christmas, although I suspect everyone else will be doing the same, so that might not be a realistic time to try to move up the rankings.

I’d be curious to hear from others. What do you typically do to put your best foot forward for the Christmas season?

What I learned from erotica writers

Amazon keywords

I know, I know — that subject line is totally unfair. Except that I did learn everything in this post from reading the thoughts of erotica writers on kboards..then I decided to try out their techniques in my far-from-erotic works.

The hot topic among erotica authors at the moment is keywords. Remember typing in those seven words or phrases on Amazon when you were publishing your ebook? I’ve added a screenshot at the top of this post to jog your memory.

If you’re like me, you probably went for the obvious and perhaps also added in keywords that Amazon uses to put your book into categories you can’t choose out of the dropdown menu. This latter technique is especially useful for new authors like me, who can only dream of selling enough books to make it into Amazon’s Paranormal Fantasy category…but who can find some new readers in New Adult Fantasy in the meantime.

But, beyond getting me into book categories, I have a feeling the rest of my keywords were a total waste of my time. Why? When you search on Amazon for “werewolf,” 32,920 results pop up. Who’s going to page through those endless covers and stumble upon my book? Nobody!

Amazon search resultsWhich brings me back to those wily erotica authors. I’m not going to mention some of the keywords they suggest because I think I need to wash my brain out after reading them and don’t want to share the joy. But here’s the G-rated version. Rather than using the keyword “werewolf” for my book, why don’t I try out something like “werewolf kindle unlimited”? That phrase only turns up 504 results, or 20 pages of books. Someone who has enrolled in kindle unlimited and is looking for a werewolf novel to read just might pick up Shiftless if I was listed under that keyword phrase, so I decided to give it a whirl.

Adding “kindle unlimited” to one of your keywords is a no-brainer if you’re enrolled in KDP Select, but should you go all-out and add the term to all of your phrases? Probably not. Amazon will mix and match words from different keyword phrases when indexing your book, so you’d probably be better off choosing other terms entirely so you get more bang for your keyword buck. After all, you do only get to choose seven phrases for your book, so it’s best to make each one count!

Now, let’s talk numbers. What’s the sweet spot in terms of keyword search results — are you looking for a phrase that turns up as few results as possible or as many as possible? The answer is: neither. As I mentioned above, if your keyword phrase is too vague, you’ll get lost in the shuffle. But, at the other extreme, a keyword so specific that only five other books turn up is totally useless if no one searches for “basket weaving with werewolves.” This is where keyword choice becomes an art, but as a rule of thumb, I generally aim for phrases with 50 to 500 results, hoping specifically to find those that clock in around 100 to 300 books.

One erotica author swears that you can make $100 in your first week with an unpublicized 5,000-word erotica short if you get the keywords right, and while I suspect less-sensational fiction won’t get you that far, it can’t hurt to play with those keywords and see how far they’ll help your book rise in the rankings. I’ve just updated Shiftless‘s keywords and will keep you posted about the results, and I’d also love to hear from other authors who have gotten more scientific with Amazon’s keyword options. Have you found keyword phrases that helped your undiscovered book see the light of day?

Making indie audiobooks

Shiftless AudiobookWhen Kindle Unlimited was rolled out, I read the fine print and realized that subscribers can download audiobooks as well as ebooks for free (with the author receiving about $1.50 per borrow and possibly gaining new fans).  Since there are about 700,000 ebooks enrolled in Amazon’s lending library but only about 2,300 audiobooks, I decided I wanted to swim in that much smaller pool.  Was it possible for an unknown indie?

The answer is a resounding yes, but like most aspects of self-publishing you’ll need to spend some time and possibly money on the endeavor.  ACX is Amazon’s audio wing, where authors hook up with narrators to make independent audiobooks happen.  You can choose to pay up front for your narration (a process that will likely cost $1,000 to $5,000), or you can opt for the revenue-sharing possibility as I did.  Revenue-sharing costs the author nothing up front, but you split all future audio royalties fifty/fifty with the narrator after the audiobook is produced. Although that sounds like a lot of money to give up, your revenue-sharing narrator does have a vested interest in making your audiobook soar and might help you sell more.  On the downside, though, you will have to make your project look very enticing to potential narrators if you want to find a really top-notch voice actor in this scenario.

As you might guess, I used the royalty-share option to produce my first audiobook (which is now available on Amazon, Audible, and (soon) iTunes).  I learned a huge amount on the process, too, namely:

Be patient while you wait for auditions.  At first, narrator auditions trickled in, but after a week, Amazon chose my project to be eligible for an ACX stipend and they featured the book in their newsletter to producers.  That meant that even though I chose the revenue-sharing feature, the narrator would also be paid $100 per audio hour up front.  In other words, the stipend made my project look very enticing and attracted some higher-end narrators.  (You are most likely to get the stipend if your ebook is already selling very well.)

Stay in touch with your narrator as they work.  My narrator and I got our wires crossed and she thought the audiobook was due three weeks later than the date I’d set in the dashboard.  Don’t assume your narrator read all the fine print!  Send them a message every week or so and make sure you’re both on the same page.  And, before you start, make a list of any strangely pronounced names or words in your story as a sort of cheat-sheet for the narrator.  (I didn’t know to do this either….)  Help make their job as easy as possible!

Consider the pay-up-front option.  One of my recent time-sinks has been lurking on kboards, where indie authors share what has and hasn’t worked for them.  A few authors there note that they’ve been making as much per title with audiobooks as with ebooks lately, but their method of success involves paying up front for top-notch narration.  I’m still not sure whether I’m willing to sink such a huge sum of money into my next audiobook, but if Shiftless does well, I might go that route with book two.

Tell your fans about Audible’s free trial.  Audible gives revenue-sharing authors $25 each time someone signs up for a new membership and downloads your book as their first audio adventure.  This is a relatively easy sell since your fans probably want to listen to your story and will love the idea of getting a copy for free.  So push those free trials!

If you’ve got any questions about audiobooks, feel free to leave them in the comments below.  Although it’s taken a bit of time, I’ve vastly enjoyed the experience of turning Shiftless into an audiobook, in large part because hearing my words narrated has made them feel more real.  Go listen to the free sample and see what you think!  (And, while I’m mentioning free things, I’ve set the ebook version of the prequel short story free at the moment as well, so be sure to snag your copy!)

David Gaughran, Sean Platt, and Johnny B. Truant

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There are so many interesting books out there with ideas and information on writing, on self-publishing, and on marketing, it’s hard to know which ones are worth your time. Here are three you might consider.

The first is David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital. If you are new to the idea of self-publishing an eBook, this is the one you should start with. Gaughran gives you all the scoop on why eBooks are such a good option for new writers (or any writer, really), and plenty of tips on how to go about it. I don’t know when the book was last updated, so there could be a few things that have been changed since it was originally written, but by and large, it is a book that will help you understand why eBooks are dominating the market right now, and why the trend is likely to continue a very long time.

Let’s Get Digital

My second choice is also by David Gaughran. Let’s Get Visible is for those of us who have taken the digital self-marketing plunge. We have a book or books out there, but are having trouble figuring out a good way to market them. One of the things I liked about this book is the way Gaughran explains the way Amazon’s algorithms grow and change, and how that should guide your marketing strategies.

Let’s Get Visible

And my newest discovery, Write. Publish. Repeat,  is a book even David Gaughran praises to the skies as the best book on self-publishing out there. I’m only one third of the way through it, but I’m already learning new concepts from Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, who share their own wildly successful methods for becoming self-supporting writers of eBooks. This one could really make a different in how I proceed with my marketing strategy in the months ahead.

Write. Publish. Repeat.

What books or blogs have you discovered on self-publishing and self-marketing you really learned a lot from? We’d love it if you’d share with us. Thanks!

The Fussy Librarian

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Got emails yesterday, confirming that both of my books, Wake-Robin Ridge and Swamp Ghosts, had been approved by The Fussy Librarian, so one step closer to trying out their service. They said they’d email me with the date for when they will each be listed, and I’ll keep you guys in the loop, as I try this one out. Going to try another one or two later today, if I finish my work on Chapter 29 of Rabbit’s story in time. Stay tuned! And be sure to jump in if you have thoughts on, or experience with, any of these services.

Self-Marketing Question

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Have any of you used services like Book Bub, Book Gorilla, Early Bird, eReaderIQ, or The Fussy Librarian to promote your work? I know BookBub is pricey, and while it might be worth it, it’s not in my budget. The Fussy Librarian has a circulation of 75,000 readers, over 60,000 signed up for notices in my genre. You can get a one-time mention for $9 per book. That’s something I can afford, and submitting a book for approval was a very easy task. So, I’ve done it. I’ll let you know how it works, what the display looks like when the email with my listing comes around, and whether or not I see an increase in sales afterward. I figured for $18, it was worth a shot, but we’ll see how it goes.

What experiences have you had? Let us hear what you have to say, good or bad.